Tag Archives: New York

Post Card from the Infield of NASCAR at Watkins Glen

So of all the years I’ve been doing NASCAR at Watkins Glen this was a first for me… Being able to check out the infield and all (some) of the insanity (cool shit!) it has to offer!

I was fortunate my friends from New Jersey came for the race, using one of my guest passes and purchasing a general admission ticket at the gate. It was interesting to hear their input on the very first NASCAR experience they had. But more importantly for me I got a chance to show them around a little bit during the downtime we had between qualifying and the race.

This was soooo cool!

I didn’t realize this before but NASCAR does an excellent job of keeping us (the marshals) away from their cars. This was a great opportunity to come very close to the replica/cutaways.

Not your typical Toyota Camry… it’s funny we’re used to call carbon fiber debris on track… with these cars its a bit more fiberglass instead, although 6 inch duct hoses seemed to be the culprit this time. And it’s nice to see them using some carbon fiber in the cabin finally… in an otherwise rudimentary/basic race car set up.

The State of New York / Tourism of NY sponsored the event.

Judging by the huge attendance, all grand stands were completely full, and thanks to the chamber of commerce for the excellent weather I’m know the State of New York got their money’s worth… I certainly did!

Post Card from NASCAR at Watkins Glen

Howdy Ya’ll!

A truly excellent weekend was spent at Watkins Glen for this year’s NASCAR – Monster Energy Cup, Xfinity Series and K&N Series East.

Here’s some pix:

Day 1 at Station 5A in Turn 5 – exit of the Bus Stop

Favorite car of the day: #6 Sunoco K&N Series East Toyota Camry

Runner up favorite car… this Toyopet sponsored old body that almost won the race.

Day 2 and 3, moved to Station 2 in Turn 2 start of the Esses.

Fantastic view, even closer to the track!

Preview of my next event in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Monster came thru big time, visiting the RSI campground and giving out tons of freebie drinks to the marshals. Thanks Monster!

I like how close US and Canada is at this event, with plenty of Canadian marshals (and many fans) represented, as well as Canadian anthem being sung before each of the races.

Had such a wonderful time working with Barb an awesome marshal.

Hey! I’ve seen this car before… had Photographer credentials.

This fella almost ran over my tent backing that thing up… Ugh!

Awesome sunny day for race day on Sunday! And it was one of the most un-NASCAR-like races I’ve ever seen at the Glen!

Even in town everyone was enjoying the NASCAR spirit… visited Bleachers for dinner whom were very #2 Brand K-ski themed, giving out free Miller Lite’s and I even got lucky with a giveaway hat.

More to come in a debrief…

Formula E NYC e-Prix the debrief

First, I’d like to express my gratitude to the organizers of the first ever FIA Formula E New York City ePrix for giving me the opportunity to participate in such an amazing event. Thank you!

I could only imagine what it took logistically to put this race on. And it certainly took a lot of different groups to come together and pitch in for the occasion. I saw Jeanie from CoTA running around with a radio looking very official. Walking in Friday morning there was a Pocono Raceway truck prominently parked at the entrance. According to the fire marshal posted at the Finish line they provided 10 of their fire crew for the race. I know that the Northern New Jersey and New England region flag chiefs co-chief’ed the event bringing flag and communications marshals not only from their local regions but from around the country and around the world. I got the pleasure to work with a Pit Lane chief from Arizona, alongside marshals from my home region as well as from Canada (both Ontario and Quebec) and from France (Paul Riccard Circuit!). That was super cool. And even though I didn’t make it onto the Scrutineer team like I was hoping to do, I got to work closely with them in pit lane which was mission accomplished for me. So I was thrilled.

What exactly did I get to do… well everything I wanted to.

  • I got to be in Pit Lane, as pit lane marshal
  • I was posted at Pit Out, working a Radar gun
  • I got to wave the green flag when the lights malfunctioned
  • I got to push some Formula E cars around to Parc Ferme
  • I got to steer one of the FE cars instead of a Scrutineer

What more could I possibly ask for?

There were some awesome perks for working this event. After all it was my local race, just about 30 miles from home. Although using public transport it took me longer to get there than it usually does to go to Lime Rock or Pocono Raceway. The organizers provided two nights hotel stay free of charge. We had an awesome pizza party on Saturday which they generously over-estimated allowing me and probably many others to take a few slices back to the hotel to have cold pizza for breakfast. The shuttle buses were provided to get to the track which was super convenient. It was great, and greatly appreciated too!

The series and the races didn’t disappoint either. First of all it was a big and small atmosphere at the same time. Big because there was a lot of clout for this massive international event. But small enough that the whole pit lane and garages filled a relatively small area. The pit lane set up was unique in that the garages faced each other, and therefore when cars were released they shot out at each other slotting into one lane. Even the safety cars and medical cars were electric, provided by BMW and including i3, i8 and an X5 hybrid electric SUV. It was cool to see i3’s with German plates (from Bavaria) and the North American HQ with American (New Jersey) plates. Cars looked identical and yet unique. I loved the little things that were noticeable about them.

The races were messy, and yet with limited safety car or virtual safety car periods. I managed to sneak a peek at the start on a big screen near pit lane and it was nuts to see all those pieces of body panels flying as cars inevitably bumped into each other on a tight circuit… but they continued. Some cars stopped on track and our fellow F&C marshals got to respond under local yellow to push them into cutouts. Which by the way were awesome. The track set up, including catch fencing and marshal post cutouts were perfect. Nice big holes, marked by orange paint and without sharp fencing edges sticking around. I mean someone did an awesome job designing and executing the set up. It was unlike any other street circuit I’ve done recently for IndyCar or Formula 1 for example. Props to them.

And then there was the view. The views were spectacular. You could see lower Manhattan across the river. You can see various boats and ferries passing by. You could see the Statue of Liberty. And with the weather we had it was a perfect view to take in. I’m even super happy it rained on Friday because it added to the appearance/view of the track with big rooster tails one day, and nice shiny cars the next on a sunny day. It was perfect!

All in all I had a blast. I feel lucky to have had a chance to participate. And I feel very proud of the job the organizers did to put on this event. I think this race was incredible and I am totally looking forward to doing more events for Formula E. It’s a shame it took me this long to volunteer I remember planning to go to Cyber Jaya on the first season or at the very least the Miami race, but never did.

Oh… and for those that say there’s no sound. That’s a tricky one. The sound is deafening. It’s a very high pitch electric/metalic noise that comes through as the cars leave past you at full blast. Coming at you though you can’t hear them at all, which is nuts, but that was the function of our Pit Lane team, whistling every time a vehicle was in pit lane because none of them could be heard at slow speed. But being at Pit Out and seeing them go full throttle you could definitely hear them and maybe even too much. The fact many of them went way too close to the wall on exit, often hitting it, that was another sound that was clearly audible. Body panels bottoming out or smacking the wall make very loud noises that you don’t normally hear over traditional engine noise.

I loved this event! I want to do more…

Sahlen’s 6 hour at the Glen 2017 the debrief

As is usually the case, I started writing several looooong paragraphs took a deep breath and deleted them because many things I said there would get me in trouble. So instead I’ll just tone it down to this: I had a generally great experience this Independence Day/Fourth of July Weekend at Watkins Glen.

The Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen proved to be everything I expected it to be and then some. The weather could have put a damper (? not sure if that’s the right word here) on things but it didn’t. Tent stayed relatively dry. Racing was relatively good. And people I was hanging out with were super friendly. I would say I got the VIP treatment from RSI but that would imply that they somehow treated me better than they treat others, which isn’t accurate. I’m genuinely satisfied with the way everyone behaves at RSI that I come in contact with and for me that’s a huge plus, I appreciate the positive vibes and positive attitudes.

We did have a few massive smash ups that I personally got a chance to respond to. A driver left in a Medevac unit which nobody ever wants to see, several others ended up in the hospital also, and the race was red flagged. It was an incredible experience and one I will definitely learn from.

There were moments I really liked. Like all the star and stripe and patriotic liveries many cars were wearing. Some things I didn’t like… the weather – mainly. But also the performance of the Mazda prototype team which keeps playing this underdog role that they really don’t deserve anymore. It was nice to see one of the cars end up on the podium, but that happened only because so many cars didn’t finish, including the other Mazda prototype. So that’s that.

Favorite little car that was an actual underdog was this yellow NC:

It still uses NC1 tail lights… just like my car.

Interestingly enough the #25 car had a smashup this weekend running it’s traditional Freedom Autosport livery, and suddenly it re-emerged wearing #25 under Murillo Racing orange livery. Wish I had snapped a photo of it. But my station was too far to the grid so I had to boogey down in order to make the start of the race.

Here’s the previously mentioned 4th of July liveries I did manage to get a snap of:

And here’s a few cool NC Miata’s I ran across in town at Watkins Glen and at the track:

There was a convoy of about five of various vintage Miata’s parading around Watkins Glen on Wednesday that I waved to while driving in the opposite direction, but I’m not sure what club they were from or what group it was that organized that cruise… it would have been nice to join them but I saw nothing about this event posted online.

Back to the track..

I got to flag from Station 3 on Thursday which is at the top of the Esses. Station 4 on Friday which is the next station after the bridge leading up to the Bus Stop… and Station 9A at the exit of the Boot on Saturday and Sunday.

The major smash up I experienced was Porsche GT3 Cup behaving very NASCAR-like… in fact I had worked an event for NASCAR when we had an identical full-track-blockage incident on the same station. This one however was far scarier. One of the Porsche’s completely lost it’s front end… wheels, suspension, frunk… everything!

On GTD qualifying I had a weird experience with the two Lexuses. They had back to back, identical incidents within seconds of each other, where one vehicle recovered the spin with damage and the other planted it into the guard rail causing a small engine fire.

So all in all it was a pretty active weekend. Lots to see. Lots to do.

I loved it!

Thank you Watkins Glen, and I hope to see you next year.

 

Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen Spotter Guides by Andy Blackmore

Don’t know about all ya’ll but I’ll be spending this Forth of July Upstate New York, volunteering yet another Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen… you know the race weekend is near because Andy Blackmore has released a whole series of new spotter guides for this event. And because IMSA is pretty awesome, there are spotter guides commissioned for nearly every series racing!

So go to SpotterGuides.com or IMSA.com and download them:

What can you download?

  • WeatherTech Sports Car Championship spotter guide
  • Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge spotter guide
  • Porsche GT3 Cup North America spotter guide
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Canada spotter guide
  • Lamborghini Super Trofeo spotter guide

OR… do what I do, and stop by one of the many info booth’s at Watkins Glen International and pick up a spotter guide as a souvenir to take home… those are my favorite!

links:

http://www.imsa.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SpotterGuides/

2017 Official IMSA Spotter Guide

 

Watkins Glen Motorsport Safety Seminar by NASCAR

The 2017 Watkins Glen Motorsport Safety Seminar is in the books, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to participate.

Training is crucial in this highly dangerous hobby that we choose to do, and not a lot of places provide it on a regular basis. Certainly none is offered by the SCCA in the New York City metropolitan area, but five hour drive north at Watkins Glen International, RSI and NASCAR put a very thorough and educational program together every year to both teach the newbies and refresh the skills of the old hands that attend. There were newbies for all specialties, from flaggers to fire fighters. And there were plenty of old hands who wanted to handle a fire extinguisher which we seldom get a chance to do with “on the job” training. The fire rescue folks had about half a dozen cars they got to cut up with the jaws of life, AMKUS tool – the official tool of NASCAR. People from Pocono Raceway helped with the training and rescue folks came from as far as Calabogie Canada to receive this training. It was essential and awesome at the same time. I really enjoyed it!

This is a two day event. Day 1 it snowed… not much when I arrived, but there were icebergs and fresh snow on the ground at the track.

It was also freezing!

The beauty of this training, whether for fire fighters or us flaggers, many of the things taught were meant not just for the track, but everyday life. Street cars were used for extrication practice to show how they ought to be cut correctly… whether for road accident or track accident (for track and club days, non-pro events). similarly caged cars were cut to practice specifically race car extrications.

I cashed in a favor and CouchSurfed in downtown Watkins Glen.

My host invited me to check out their neighbors barn bar… it was pretty awesome. Always nice to nibble on venison sausages and beer! These are real NASCAR fans… “So who’s your driver?”

Day two was significantly warmer. We got to shoot the extinguishers:

Same cut-away car from two years ago, but it works well!

That’s me.

Not sure what this fella was up to.

Chief really knew his shit, and presented it in understandable manner.

The wind was coming in from the front, blowing the extinguisher powder back at us. So some adjustment in positioning was required.

Everyone had a go… I went last.

By the time I got the bottle there was barely enough pressure to reach the fire.

So I sprayed, and I sprayed, and I sprayed… and I have a feeling one of the fire fighters cut the propane so the flame went out on its own.

But boy was it fun just doing it. Pulling the trigger. The excitement of fighting a fire. Better to do it under these circumstances and knowing what to expect than during a racing event when a car pulls up on fire and you’re the closet one with a bottle there. It’s nice to know what to expect from it once you’ve called for help.

Thank you RSI. Thank you WGI. Thank you NASCAR!

Three Trips to Florida in Three Weeks, the debrief

I love Florida!

I love Miami Beach… specifically South Beach or SoBe for short. I like to go every opportunity I get. Last year I got incredibly lucky with some cheap $35 each way flights to Miami International with American Airlines… this year JetBlue had a similar promo flying to Fort Lauderdale in the neighboring Broward County for $39 bux so I jumped on that offer. I booked one two day round trip, followed by another a week later… and then realized that if I book one more flight on JetBlue I’d qualify for the 5,000 point bonus which they award for any 3 round trip flights booked with the airline in the calendar year (I already had 1 JetBlue flight under my belt flying to Oakland, California for the Miatas at Laguna Seca a month earlier).

The Daytona Beach road trip I wrote about a little earlier and the fiasco I got to experience with Hertz and their Black and White VW Beetle’s I was blessed with. It wasn’t a perfect trip because of a few glitches along the way, the most disappointing of them all turned out to be the weather. The seas were especially rough a week or so after Hurricane Matthew blasted through the area.

Miami Beach wasn’t that much better. The first trip was a dud… seas were super rough even when the weather was nice and sunny. I didn’t get a chance to do what I specifically came there to do: swim! Luckily second and final week in SoBe was almost perfect and I swam, and I swam, and I swam.

But there’s only so much swimming one could do in a day so I totally worked the schedule around to optimize my foodie tour opportunities and I didn’t waste any time to enjoy some of the finest cuisine US has to offer… specifically very authentic Latin cuisine from the huge Cuban community in Miami and Little Havana around Calle Ocho. Below are some pix from those visits… and recommendations along with captions:

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I used a different NYC area airport for each one of my trips. Daytona Beach flight arrived at JFK in Jamaica, Queens. The first Ft. Lauderdale flight used LaGuardia in Queens and the final Ft. Laud/Hollywood International flight used Newark Liberty in NJ. Both LaGuardia and Newark departures saw a real traffic jam of flights on departure, we were something like 10th in line to use the runway, so each flight departed about an hour late. Both of the return flights experienced close to an hour delay because of ground holds in Newark. The LaGuardia flight was especially interesting because shortly after leaving South Florida and while I was watching CNN on the JetBlue IFE system, the vice-presidential candidate’s Boeing 737 crashed at LaGuardia… the airport we were flying to. Luckily the only issue was that the plane overshot the runway, so the airport re-opened and we arrived there eventually. For a moment though it was looking pretty hairy… I was wondering where they were going to re-route us to. Upon landing it took the pilot a few attempts to negotiate the landing. I haven’t done an aborted landing before this flight yet.

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Upon arrival in SoBe the red flags were out. And much like in auto racing, red flag means no racing… or in my case no swimming! Boo…

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So on the first trip the alternative was a foodie tour of Calle Ocho in Little Havana… a short bus ride across Miami.

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The cocks are obviously very uniquely cuban “thing” and are running around on the streets pretty freely.

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Sopas at Rey de las Fritas are outstanding!

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And so are the little Cuban Hamburgers with the little fritas sprinkled in… a pretty unique taste and very filling.

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No trip to Calle Ocho could be complete without some Guarapo… or freshly squeezed sugar cane drink. I ordered a whole bucket which was a bit pricey at $7 bucks… but oh so delicious!

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A short drive down 8th Avenue is Brickell Mazda… I got off the bus to check out their ND Miata’s on the lot. While Miami looks amazing in post cards and on TV in shows like CSI Miami, the reality of it is it’s hard to maintain the exotic image, especially with a dark colored car. The mix of dust and recent rain drops made this car look a little neglected…

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Back to the beach…

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and it was still red flagged… so I continued with the foodie tour!

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One of my favorite dishes in South Florida is ceviche… and I got a real nice octopus version on Washington Ave between 2nd and 3rd. It’s a take-out only place next door to a hostel, very tasty!

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Next time give them a try… look up My Ceviche, Miami Beach

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Though I tried to organize a little mini meet with the local Miata community absolutely nothing materialized, which was disappointing especially since this little “Mazdaspeed” gem was parked outside my hostel both weeks I was there.

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So instead I went car spotting along the streets of Miami Beach, and the local PD always had something interesting parked outside their HQ… like this pink CVPI cruiser

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Or this one the next week… Police Car or Taxi?

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Lots of interesting cars driving by also… plenty of Maseratis, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls Royces… the Bugatti was probably one of the few I got to see out in the wild though:

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Funny enough, plenty of exotics are available for rent, even as short as 1 hour period… saw a few beat up Ferraris, Lambos and Rolls’s:

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I went in asking if they had any Mazda Miata’s available, and the answer was NOPE!

So a Mazda Miata is a more rare car in Miami than most exotics!

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For some reason they really love Trump in Florida. kind of surprising!

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For another surprising reason I really drink a lot of Cuban coffee whenever I’m in South Florida… I don’t know what it is, I never drink coffee at home… but whenever I’m in Miami, cafe con leche is a must!

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One of my favorite places to get cafe con leche in Miami Beach is Playa Cafe on Washington Ave between 16th and Espanola Way. The other is Las Olas Cafe on Euclid and 6th Street.

Playa I visited especially frequently, trying many things on their menu:

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Most had some kind of combination of rice and beans as well as beef, pork and chicken. You really can’t go wrong, whether rice or yuca, it’s all finger licking good!

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But after a few days of Cuban I was ready for a change and sampled a few other places… like this Vietnamese on Washington called either Miss Saigon or What the Pho… depending what sign you read. The Pho was outstanding and so were the summer rolls wrapped in a thin condom-like rice pancake and lubricated by peanut sauce… Yum!

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Super delicious!

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More Trumpism!

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A french sandwich place behind a Walgreens on 14th Street was an amazing find. I had a “frenchie” sandwich with french salami and brie and all the fixings and it was a really excellent value. All the green stuff was super fresh, though the baugette was not. I should have come there earlier in the day rather than evening so it was my own fault. I would highly recommend this joint!

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One place that did disappoint me was South Beach Sushi on Washington and 17th. It was basically supermarket sushi quality even when the price was below typical SoBe prices. I was not a fan.

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The night I went for sushi it almost didn’t happen as I got caught out in a bit of a tropical rain storm… I wish I would have missed it!

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But like most rains in South Florida it went as quickly as it came after dumping a whole lot of water on unsuspecting tourists (like me). I waited it out over a coffee at a Mediterranean joint, on second thought I should have ordered a shawarma instead of going for sushi. There’s always next time!

Sunday Cruise along Seven Lakes Drive to the Top of Bear Mountain

It’s been a long while since I helped organize a Seven Lakes Drive cruise up to Bear Mountain State Park. I’ve been wanting to put something together but it seems like nobody was ever interested on  Miata.net forums or the New Jersey Miatas facebook group. Turns out that people were always interested and enjoying the ride, they just didn’t care to do it with me….   Today however I joined a super secret, private facebook group on a cruise along the twisties of Bear Mountain, and it was a fantastic experience!

I’m so glad Chris, the owner of a beautiful 2008 NC1 GT PRHT that I’ve been sharing pictures of on this blog for a few times now, most recently from our cruise down the Jersey Shore a week ago, invited me to join him and his friends on a leisurely Sunday drive.

Unlike last week’s Miata meet, this was quite a diverse group of friends sporting everything from E30 BMW’s to Toyobaru BRZ’s. There were several Mitsubishi Evo’s and a bunch of Subbie WRX STi’s, even a Mini Cooper GP that decided to join when he saw us zoom zooming around.

It was such a beautiful day for a drive we were by no means the only group cruising Seven Lakes Drive, 9W and Palisades Interstate Parkway around Bear Mountain. We saw large groups of Porsche owners, BMW’s, Lotus, Honda S2000 (which was probably the biggest), etc. all cruising the same roads. As well as hundreds of tourists with rental cars (many sporting out of state plates, like California for example… which you know were definitely rentals because who would drive cross country just to take in the scenic views from the top of Bear Mountain?) It was awesome.

I had a blast. The group was very mature. Very organized. Nobody crashed. People behaved well. It was a pleasure. And the BBQ lunch we went to near West Point was simply outstanding.

Would love to do this again sometime…

some pix:

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Following Chris on our 7am pre-run recon lap on Seven Lakes Dr.

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The official 8am meet-up in Sloatsburg, NY

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Perfect day for a leisurely cruise in the mountain twisties.

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Lots of regrouping along the way, and doing some stretches twice.

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Lots of leaves collected behind grills, against the radiators.

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Yep, a ton of leaves… Gotta love fall foliage…

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Stage…

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Regroup…

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Line up for group photos…

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Some tourists did in fact come a long way… doubt a rental car company would have a vanity plate so specific…

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It was so congested that Police closed some of the roads we wanted to take for the scenic drive.

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Of course closed roads typically result in standstill traffic.

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Food at last!

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Delicious 3-Meat Platter…. Yumm!

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Final Group Photo Shoot…

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I am a huge fan of Chris’s Miata, it’s very tastefully done!

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Notice the difference in height, mine = stock, Chris’s = lowered.

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Back on the road to the top of Bear Mountain for sunset views.

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The End!

Post Card from Ferrari Challenge at Lime Rock

Another weekend on a race track, this time flagging for Ferrari track rental at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.

Lots of opinions to share about this event, but first some photos:

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Formula E is Coming to NYC Racing on a Pier in Brooklyn. Can’t Wait for New York City e-Prix

If I get to volunteer for only one Motorsport event next year, I want it to be this: the inaugural New York City ePrix featuring the FIA Formula E racing series.

All the major media outlets broke the news today about it. And not just places like Motorsport.com and Road & Track but even the New York Times is promoting this sporting event as something very unique. I should certainly hope so. While Formula E is hardly new to the US with feature races taking place in Miami, South Florida in 2015 and Long Beach, Southern California for the past two years (which I missed) the New York City race will be something different.

Here’s a little promo clip:

And here’s the proposed track map:

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Man… I can hardly wait for this! Of all the events I’ve done in the past the only one I regret not doing so far was the ePrix in Miami or Cybejaya in Malaysia… now I may actually have a chance. The races on next year’s calendar in Hong Kong and Singapore are proof that this thing is getting really good! I hope to see a lot of success in this form of racing and most definitely want to be a part of it as a marshal.

Woo Hoo!